LaRue was certainly an impressive duo in 1999 when every element of their approach was considered. Phillip LaRue was seventeen, and his little sister Natalie was fifteen, but their musical talent transcended their youth with both grace and spiritual fervor. Fast-forward to 2012, and both siblings are married with children but are nonetheless transparent in their passion for music. With Phillip having already made his solo debut three years ago, now it's Natalie's turn, and one Kickstarter campaign later, Even Now EP brings Natalie LaRue back into the spotlight.
LaRue as a collective pairing only became better as time went on; as the brother-sister duo matured, so did their songwriting, even if it was just little improvements over a four-year span. Natalie's debut solo project, however, is a brief but embracing collection that shows an entirely different methodology than her adolescent music-making days. As with Phillip, expecting a much older LaRue sibling to pick up where she musically left off would be a painful mistake, as a whole decade of life experiences since the duo's final album makes a visible impact. Still, Even Now is a project all Natalie's own, and it's invigorating to hear her striking voice once again.
Slower piano ballads, with some occasional light strings and percussion thrown in, make up the real bulk of Even Now, but in traditional LaRue fashion, nothing here ever leaves Jesus out of the equation. "Back to You," "Humble Me," "Glory," and "Home" are honest moments of pure worship, capturing Natalie's ardor for Christ without a sometimes too common stale aftertaste; her faith like a child still feels full-grown. "May You Have Victory" is self-descriptive, giving all glory to Christ in both the good and bad times ("Even now, in the midst of this mess, constantly draining me when all I need is rest/hold in my arms when I face defeat, even now, may You have victory"), and "Baby Boy" is Natalie's ode to the blessing of her newborn son ("Never knew I could love this way, every day a little more/when you came it changed everything, lost much but I gained it back tenfold"). Without feeling generic or forced, Natalie's vertical songwriting reflects her earthly emotions fairly and sympathetically, and Even Now is a comforting and revealing glimpse into her life story that's still being written.
With more than enough positives to mention, Even Now is still a restrained project that seems to barely get started as soon as it ends, and something about it feels momentary and less timeless than it should be. Even though it's not the most varied series of songs from a compositional standpoint, Natalie's foray back into music is a warmly welcomed one. While the LaRue siblings have taken their separate paths and left their "childish" ways behind them (a phrase used very loosely here), it's refreshing to see their more adult songwriting surface after all these years. And even when they're not together, LaRue is still very much alive and well in their fans' hearts.
- Review date: 6/14/12, written by Roger Gelwicks of Jesusfreakhideout.com